8 months now

Time flies. Unbelievably, it has been close to 8 months since I left my full-time job. To be precise, I am 2 more days to being 8 months away from full-time employment. When I left, I transited to part-time work, which left me equally busy and tired, with little time for myself. As such, from December last year, I stopped all work to simply give myself more time. Yet, this also did not quite work out the way I planned simply because I struggled to say no when people asked me for help.

Thankfully, the projects I took on were work that I enjoyed doing and even though I felt stretched at times, I did have a good time. I did not travel round the world as many have suggested. I stayed home and wrote stuff, translated stuff, planned stuff and transcribed stuff. Through it all, I realised I still love working with words and working alone. For me, to see words bring ideas to life, to see words come alive as scenes and stories in my mind… it was both beautiful and magical.

And this was a helpful insight as I spent considerable time pondering over my next steps, having given time for old wounds to heal and to reflect and learn from past mistakes.

When I left my full-time job as a civil servant, many encouraged me to join private sector, speculating that I would have a more rewarding time and enjoy greater success. I did consider that option for having worked in the public sector for more than 10 years, I always wondered about the private sector. I went on to talk with friends to find out more about what they do and how I might fit into this really foreign world. The more I found out about private sector, the more I began to realise how it was not something I would enjoy. The idealist in me would struggle to make bottom-lines a key focus for the reason I work. Furthermore, I lacked the life skills requisite for survival in the private sector and honestly, I was and still am not keen to acquire those skills.

Mildly disappointed that I was really not made for a life of blitz and glitz, I dutifully turned my focus to public sector. Surely, work in public sector would provide the meaning and purpose that I desired to guide my work? Well, yes. However, there were so much meaningful things we can do in our lives and with limited resources such as energy and time, one really need to know where one heart truly was. As I shared with a few close friends, when I searched through Job Street, I found positions whose job descriptions really excited me. I look at those advertisements for months; not that I did not want to apply for them, but somehow I always hesitated when it was time to click the “Apply Now” button. As I reflected, I realised that while the work was interesting and meaningful, it was not in a space that I was passionate about.

So at the end of the day, I realised that I was doing what I loved most when I left my job. My heart was in education and I desired to do whatever I could to help children learn and prepare for a better future. Yet, I left my job. This really made me think very hard the causes for my burnt out that resulted in my decision to leave. Because if I ever made my way back to the education sector, I need to make sure I would never work myself to the point of another burnt out.  And I did find out after much thought and reflection; in part because I took managerial responsibilities too seriously, in part because there were some principles that were core to who I am and which I would not want to give up. I could do a lot of things that would make being a manager easier, but I would not have liked myself very much if I did those things.

At this point of my journey, I thus have to decide… to follow my heart, to hold firm to my principles and to work in space that perhaps would not promise career advancement… or, to follow my heart, to learn to adapt and give up some of my principles in a space that possibly hold the promise of career advancement? These are of course false dichotomies but they are helpful in that they help me make a stand and to know where is the line that I would not cross.

I have made some decisions and actions since thinking through all the above. And I would think I have my life figured out. Unfortunately, no. Circumstances change, new developments happen… Many days, I continue to feel lost and unsure but I press on somehow… because only when I step out will I find out what truly will happen next. Till the next time.

To be continued ~ 

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